Three Stories

A Collection of Hands

I’ve started a collection of hands. Not intentionally: they simply began appearing inside me and because I have no easy way to get them out I count and catalogue them.

I feel them with my own hands through my skin. I categorize them in a spreadsheet by length from end to end, sharpness of knuckle, which of the three center fingers extends farthest. I imagine the color, the curve and pattern of the lines on the palms, the thickness of fingernails.

There are at least seven of them in me. I think at least two are from childhood friends who I am not sure are still living, though I have no concrete reason to believe they aren’t. Perhaps a grandfather’s – the one that’s slightly shriveled, always bent.

I feel the others move, prod my organs. Sometimes they scratch the inner layers of my skin. They reach out, threaten puncture.

I am sure one belongs to my dead sister, continued growing after her early exit from womb, decided finally to stay with me now.

First Grade Art Assignment

Teacher aks why I draw momma like dat. I say: “’cause she fly in da sky like Mary Poppins.” She wear all black and pull dat switch like an umbrella from her bag when I have nightmares and walk in her room when she wit dat man she fuck wit. (Teacher say to not say dat word.) He wear black, too, and has a face like he bin playin’ in chimneys. She say he help so we can stay here. He not in da picture.

But I am. You see me? I’m da little dot in da back. Da seagull. It windy, it a storm. Marcus ain’t let me use his crayons, so da sun purple and momma don’t have her umbrella in da picture. It just her and me. Tryin’ ta fly, toward dat purple sun. I was gonna draw da apartment buildin’ but I ain’t have time. So it just us two.

Teacher say momma need to come to parent-teacher meeting but I don’t think she’ll come. She busy workin’. She work hard, I know ’cause she always tired and she don’t do much at home. And her voice tired when she tell me she love me on da couch at 3 a.m. with her hair needed to be did again. Or sometime she don’t talk, or don’t even come in til after 3. Or sometime he come by and I hide under my bed wit my stuffed bird animal and don’t breathe much til he go back out.

When I turned in da picture of momma and me, teacher saw a mark on my arm and I told her it was from Mary’s umbrella. She hung up all da other pictures, every one but mine. Everyone else drew smiling people in deirs. But in da other pictures da momma’s don’t fly.

He’s Sure to Remove His Wet Socks Before He Considers Jumping

He changes his socks, takes off the purple argyle to swap for gold-toed black, pulls the fabric up to knees, over hips, up until they cover his eyes. Like sleeping bag, like blanket burrito inching from the tent and rolling down the hill, splashing into lake.

Two children pass in a pedal-boat, creak of rusty bars between the pedals, the calm of lake bed, of womb—he plucks the umbilical chord, pulls it taut, plucks again, closes eyes, the rapid movement of black pupil. He’s walking down an alleyway with a briefcase full of candy bars and kicking glass bottles, kicking his own placenta, kicking the ball down field in his childhood soccer league and he remembers the lines, wire hanger, the marks, the sharp whipping sound through the air, and also the switch, and also the switching of channels, little square in the top corner showing this program is rated youth and this next one welt and this next one blood.

All the other channels are static. He comes home and pulls off the wet socks, from walk home from school, from a friends’, from the park and rain and puddles and the splash—small wet crumpled pile, new dry socks, their static spark as pulled from plastic bin, again, and she will notice the wet clues and he will remember the rage.

He will try to hide under black blankets in his room. He will try to hide in the bathroom during Sunday school but he knows the teacher will notice. He learns there are gaps in the story of Jesus—according to scripture, there is nothing recorded between the ages of 12 and 30. The jump. Cannonball into water. There are parts of his memory that are a gold-lined black sphere. The lines of eyes from rooftop to concrete as sun descends and dark descends—shadow drawn over eyes, then hips, knees, feet.

He remembers the rooftop but not the stairs, not the stars, not the step back from ledge, bare feet kicking empty chip bags and pebbles, wet socks left right there: behind him, just them in the new nighttime with little knowledge, too, of how they have arrived.  

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